Quality improvement is at the heart of Education and Care (E&C) and school agendas across Australia, and is a priority for the Department of Education (DoE). It is brought to life through reflective practice, which drives continuous improvement, ensuring that the education and wellbeing of children is always a priority. Through Strong Partnerships, DoE schools and services, and E&C services work collaboratively to achieve improved outcomes for children. This can take time to accomplish, as stakeholders work under a range of professional expectations and responsibilities, and with pre-existing values.
The provisional Policy to guide co-location of Education and Care and Department of Education services (Co-location Policy) provides a clear vision for working together for children.
Reviewing the partnership between a co-located DoE school/service and an E&C service is an ongoing process that continually and collaboratively works to address the outcomes and objectives of the Co-location Policy.
- Critical reflection means continually thinking about, questioning, analysing and re-evaluating practice to identify where further improvements could be made for children, families and educators (Guide to the National Quality Framework, Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority, 2017).
- Reflective practice and evaluation are significant educator responsibilities, as designated in legal, ethical and educational frameworks such as the National Quality Standard, Early Childhood Australia’s Code of Ethics, and Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (Arthur, L., Beecher, B., Death, E., Dockett, S., & Farmer, S. (2018) Programming and planning in early childhood settings (7th ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Cengage Learning Australia).
- Collaborating with partners significantly strengthens many aspects of reflection and evaluation (Arthur, et al, 2018 – see above).
- Implications for practice are informed by the research evidence (Marbina, L., Church, A. and Tayler, C. (2010) Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework Evidence Paper, Practice Principle 8: Reflective Practice. Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, p. 5).
- Reflection in action and reflection after the event achieves the best outcomes for children.
- To provide high quality, effective services for children and families, there must be a commitment to ongoing learning, professional development and reflective practice in environments that are respectful and responsive to children, families and professionals.
- Reflective practice provides a common goal for professionals working across agencies.
- Reflection and critical reflection are unifying practices for diverse groups of professionals.
- Professional networks and learning communities support early and middle childhood professionals to participate in professional development that encourages critical reflection.
- Environments where reflective practice is valued need to be actively created.
- Mentors can provide resources, skills and guidance to develop reflective practice.
- Expectations and responsibilities for partnering Department of Education (DoE) schools and services, and Education and Care (E&C) services, in relation to reviewing the partnership, are outlined in the provisional Policy to guide co-location of Education and Care and Department of Education services.
- These mandated reviews should be supported and informed by ongoing informal review processes, driven by the critical reflection of partnering service stakeholders.
- Reviewing the partnership between co-located Department of Education (DoE) school and services, and Education and Care (E&C) services should be regarded as an ongoing process that involves strong and respectful communication practices, up-to-date professional knowledge and clear understanding of the provisional Policy to guide co-location of Education and Care and Department of Education services.
- Where there is conflict or differences of opinion, the five shared values (outlined in the Shared Values section of the Strong Partnerships Framework) should be referred to in order to guide decision making.
- Children should be encouraged to provide reflections on partnership matters that affect them, such as projects, experiences, the outdoor environment and expectations.
- Leaders share data and information about evidence-based practices to improve approaches within and between services.
- Leaders remain open to ideas that will strengthen the partnership and achieve positive outcomes for children.
REFLECTIONS FOR LEADERS:
- What are the benefits of a Strong Partnership for my service, my partnering service and the children and families?
- How do I know that the partnership is working? Is this documented?
- What approaches should I take to resolve differences between my service and our partnering service?
- How can I ensure that children and families are consulted?
- How well do the key components of the Strong Partnerships Framework sit with my context and the work we do? Do these key areas resonate with the way we work in our context?
- What is the next step to strengthen the alignment of our practice with the Strong Partnerships Framework?
- How can children’s learning goals be shared across services to help improve outcomes and continuity of care for the child?
- How are concerns from children, families, educators, teachers, or other staff addressed when they arise?